Nora Dunn

Photo: William DeShazer/Chicago Tribune

Nora Dunn performs during The Paper Machete


For decades, Chicago has been home to the poetry slam. But a new trend now reigns: writers’ salons. Bred in barrooms and bookstores, these live literary events merge performance with the written word. Here are three monthly events worth visiting.

Wikipedia meets vaudeville in Shanny Jean Maney and Robbie Q. Telfer’s show. Once a month, local actors, traveling musicians, and other artists are assigned to perform an entry (a poem, an essay) on a new topic (the origins of life, the belle époque, the Australian outback) for this live reference work.
Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St. $9 (students $6).

If the NPR quiz show Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! and The Moth had a love child, it’d look a lot like Christopher Piatt’s Saturday afternoon series. Frequented by nearly every essayist, comedian, actor, and singer in the city, this “salon in a saloon” has writers tackling the events of the week with humor and verve.
Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway. Free.

Host and founder Ian Belknap pits writers against each other in this knockdown-dragout reading series. He assigns them opposing positions (shaken versus stirred) and lets them duke it out. The audience votes for a winner, who chooses the charity to which Belknap donates a portion of the night’s door.
The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave. $10.